Welcome back to CatholicMom.com’s Lawn Chair Catechism! If you’d like details on our Summer reading program or would like to just catch up on past posts, please head to my dedicated page for details.
This week, we are discussing Chapter 4: Using Brand-Name Equipment: The Trinity. This chapter starts out talking about tools (always a good start!) and how when it comes to lawn equipment and other tools, you get what you pay for. Our family learned this, too, when we tried to buy things like lawn-care equipment or a grill or other tools on the cheap. We wound up having to replace things much sooner than if we had just ponied up for the pricier brands. When we went to get a new weed hacker for my husband a couple of years ago, we bought a professional brand instead of going cheap with whatever the local Big Box Home Store had on the shelf. Boy, has it been worth it! We weren’t just paying for a name, but for everything that went with it: dependability, quality, and ease of use. Instead of spending more time cursing at the weed hacker and the tangled string that never released the way it was supposed to, Nathan whips through the trimming in a fraction of the time – and without having to re-wind the trimmer string at all!
In the same way, we have a the Brand Name of all brand names associated with each of us: the Holy Catholic Church! This ought to mean something to us, especially when we recall that we are Baptized into the Church in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Every person has been made in the image and likeness of God, Who is not just a concept but a Community of Love. God communes with Himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in perfect love. As His children, we, too, are called to commune with our brothers and sisters in perfect love. This means that we care for each other as we would want to be cared for, should we find ourselves in their situation.
Let’s explore this a bit more through our discussion questions:
• How would you describe the concept of the Trinity to a non-Christian? To a Christian child?
Well, since the shamrock got panned so badly in the book, I’ll give a try with something I learned during a homily on Trinity Sunday about 8-9 years ago.
God is perfect, and He speaks His Word so perfectly (the thought of Himself is so perfect) that this Word, this thought, is another Person: the Son. And the Father and Son love each other perfectly, for God is Love and loves Himself. The love of the Father and the Son is so perfect and pure that it results in another Being: the Holy Spirit. These three Persons are in perfect communion with each other and love each other perfectly; in fact, they are not separate, but One Being – the Trinity.
I have actually used similar language with my own children, partly because it helps explain how love between spouses can be so perfect and pure that it results in another being.
• What does it mean for us to bear a family resemblance to our God?
As I just mentioned, our love, too, can be so perfect and self-giving that it results in another person. Besides this, we also resemble God in certain qualities we have as a result of our intellect and free will: we can create things – not as bees create a hive out of unconscious instinct, but out of our imaginations and creativity. Our intellect, our free will, enables us to make something new that no one has ever seen! We can choose our actions rather than rely on instinct, whether our actions include caring for the weak (something not seen in the animal kingdom outside of humans) or firemen or police officers running towards danger to save someone else (again, not something animals do for each other).
We can love! Animals have attachments and affections, but they do not love the way humans do. We can choose to love in spite of difficulties with a person, and we can choose to act upon this love in spite of our inclinations to do otherwise.
• What does it mean that Catholics do not believe in a supreme being?
This had to be one of the most surprising things I read in this chapter! Let me quote Joe Paprocki here:
Truth is, we don’t believe God is a distant supreme being; we don’t believe that God is supreme being at all. A supreme being is a being that is simply superior to other beings. God is the Creator of human beings. God is not a being, but the very ground of being — the very essence of being. So, what is God, if not a being? God is God. That’s why He told Moses, “I Am who Am.” In other words, God just is.
What this means is that God is being itself. He is the source of existence — uncreated, the Alpha and the Omega. God is not a being, because God is not created; He has always been. He is the First Mover, the source of everything that is.
• What would you say to someone who claims that they can be spiritual but not religious (meaning that they feel they do not need to belong to a worshipping congregation)?
Boy, is this a thing lately! A couple of years ago, someone made a video about how he is not religious, but he loves Jesus. There have been plenty of great responses to this misguided young man, and most said the same sorts of things: God did not create us to be “spiritual” and not be involved in a community for worship. Jesus, even though He went to pray alone, still went to Temple and took part in worship at his synagogue. The Apostles did not worship alone, either; they came together daily to pray, read and discuss the Scriptures, and to break the bread (a euphemism for celebrating the Eucharist).
And worshipping alone is really a spiritual danger. Coming together with each other helps us not to make God over in our image, where He pats us on the back for everything we are and never chides us to become more like Christ. Really, this is why Jesus established a Church to begin with. We are no better than the Israelites who wandered time and again from God’s revealed plan, despite warnings from Moses, Joshua, the Judges, and the Prophets. Again and again, Man has proven that he needs someone to constantly call him back to repentance, back to God’s plan and will for his life. Refusing to be a part of any worshipping congregation simply opens us up to doing the same thing: drifting from what God wants of us, justifying our sins, and making God over in our image and likeness, so that He hates all the same people we hate and loves all the same people we love.
Of course, being Catholic, I see the safest bet is to stay with the Church that God set up and promised to guide until the end of time.
• What does it mean to live as a people “in communion with” one another?
Reading this section made me think time and again of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta. We can’t be in communion with each other without loving each other — and that means everyone! God the Father doesn’t get mad at God the Son and decide not to talk to him for a day while He complains to the Holy Spirit about what a pain those teenaged years are. God loves, and loves perfectly, all the time.
We’re called to do the same: we’re called to love our brothers and sisters, to love our neighbor, even if we’re not in the mood. This is part of what makes us resemble God most: when we choose to love in spite of the other person’s rejection.
Mother Theresa was the embodiment of this idea. She lived and worked in a country where one of the major religions teaches that people are poor, sick, and destitute because they weren’t good enough in a past life. Helping someone from a lower caste is unheard of and, frankly, frowned upon. An untouchable deserves what he gets because of his past sins. Mother Theresa went to help these people anyway, caring for those left to die on heaps of trash or in the gutter, and did so because when she looked at them, she saw Jesus Himself.
• Explain the following statement: “Our belief in the Trinity is not an intellectual exercise—it is a relationship.”
This is really where the rubber meets the road — as Christians, do we think of God as a concept or as a Person? Do we act as if we can learn all about God without engaging our hearts in the matter? I think that for a lot of people, this is what God is: an intellectual exercise, a set of apologetics, a concept to be studied.
But God is so much more than this! He is our Father in Heaven, searching for us to come home to Him. He calls to us, hoping that we’ve got an ear out for him. He loves us, even when no one else seems to love us.
We cannot treat God as something to be studied and picked apart! It’s one thing to engage in theological study, but we must guard ourselves against making God simply one more thing that we read about instead of having a relationship with Him! This was a big focus of last year’s Lawn Chair Catechism: moving from knowing God in your head to loving Him in your heart.
It’s all well and good to study the faith intellectually and learn more about the teachings of the Church, but without moving that from your head to your heart, we risk seeing God as a concept instead of a Person, and treating him as a theory instead of Reality itself!
I think as adults, we stop seeing the wonder in creation; we cease seeing the world as this amazing creation that God made for us to enjoy. We study it to death! We see the leaves’ changing in the fall as a chemical reaction set in motion by cold weather and the tree shutting down its food-making capabilities instead of thinking, “Wow! God sure did make Fall gorgeous this year! Look at the colors!” We look at our love for our children as some kind of instinct that evolved in us (and what happened to children before we evolved that, I wonder?) rather than realizing that love comes from outside of ourselves — that it’s bigger than we are, more powerful.
I think the Church helps to remind us that God is God (and we are made in His image, not the other way around), and our children help remind us that there is great wonder in the world, and it’s put there by a God who loves us and wants to shower us with little gifts every day.
This week, I challenge you to see each sunrise and sunset, each little breeze, and each burst of sunlight through the clouds as a little “I love you” note from your Heavenly Father. Say a prayer of thanks for those little things, and help move God from your head to your heart.
Now it’s your turn! Comment below, or head to CatholicMom.com and leave your blog’s link with your discussion of this chapter.